Feds approve new ingredient to boost hand sanitizer output to battle COVID-19 crisis
Ontario company expects to produce 20 times more alcohol used in sanitizer
Health Canada has given its stamp of approval to a product that could dramatically boost the dwindling supply of hand sanitizer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, CBC Toronto has learned.
Greenfield Global Inc.,a specialty alcohol manufacturing company based in Toronto, which proposed a new, much more abundant ingredient for sanitizer, told CBC News the approval means sanitizer makers should soon be able to meet surging demand across the country.
Before Health Canada's approval, only food-grade ethanol could be used to make hand sanitizer. As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold and demand for sanitizer skyrocketed, that ingredient was becoming increasingly scarce, according to a report the federal agency issued last week.
"An unprecedented demand for for hand sanitizer products has created global shortages [of] food grade ethanol," the report states.
"These shortages have led to searches of other types of ethanol for the manufacture of hand sanitizer."
Greenfield proposed using fuel-grade ethanol instead, which requires far less distilling and is in far greater supply, the company told CBC Toronto.
Greenfield's analysis was followed by Health Canada testing.
By early April, that testing had shown the fuel-grade ethanol, which is blended into auto fuel, is a suitable replacement for the food-grade ethanol used to make sanitizer, according to the company.
Health Canada said in a statement its approval of the replacement ingredient is temporary.
"This authorization is based on a thorough analysis of the benefits and risks to Canadians and will end as soon as ... food-grade ethanol can once again be produced in sufficient quantities to meet increased demand," the agency wrote in an advisory dated April 15.
Statistics Canada said in an April 8 report that for the week ending March 14, 2020, demand nation-wide for hand sanitizer had risen by more than 700 per cent, compared to the 2019 average.
20 times more output
Greenfield told CBC Toronto the approval means it can now provide 20 times more sanitizer-grade ethanol than it could in the past. The company expects output to jump from one million litres a month to 20 million — more than enough, the company believes, to ease the sanitizer shortage.
Greenfield said it's already begun production at its Johnstown plant, near Brockville, Ont..
The company said it has approval to continue sending fuel-grade ethanol to sanitizer makers until the end of June.
With files from John Lancaster